CBT is a systemic approach to help people to feel better, whether this means waking up without depression, managing to go out of the house without experiencing crippling anxiety, or performing effectively in a stressful situation. This is achieved through exploration and experimentation with regard to thoughts, body sensations and behaviour.
One of the elements which is absolutely vital to CBT is the collaborative approach. Clients have nothing ‘done to’ them ; rather, the therapist listens very carefully to every aspect of a problem the client is experiencing. The therapist then draws up a ‘map’ including vulnerabilities and trigger situations which may worsen the problem, and also positive features which help. The therapist then shares the plan with the client, and the client adjusts it throughout the sessions. The actual sessions are a little like coaching, with the main changes and progression taking place during the time the client is in the ‘real’ world. There is an expectation that a client completes ‘homework’.
This leads to another key aspect of the CBT approach, in that the behavioural side is based largely on experiments. These are put together by client and therapist during the session, and then often completed by the client in their own time. These can take place during sessions if both client and therapist think this to be beneficial. These ‘ experiments’ might range from finding out how others feel about certain situations, to actually experiencing something, and then noting associated thoughts, behaviours, body sensations and feelings. Clients are encouraged to discuss findings with the therapist at the beginning of a session, whether the task has been completed in full or in part.
This systemic CBT approach leads to development of skills where any environment or situation can be approached by a client in a flexible and calm way, so that they gain optimum satisfaction from whatever lifestyle they choose. The tools and strategies gained during the CBT will transfer across all situations and will be available for the rest of the persons’ life.